“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Thanking God for his thorn? Is Paul a masochist? Is he one of those, “Thank you sir, may I have another,” gung ho Marine types? No. And it is not his personality type that is important for us to understand; it is the progression he experienced as he moved from irritation to delight.
For you and for me, the question to ask is, “How did Paul, and therefore how do we, reach a place in our spiritual journey where we see God’s thorns as the gifts they can be?”
Don’t miss that: How do you progress from whining and complaining to God about the things and the people you don’t like in your life, to more than a conqueror: seeing through a lens of God’s perfect power, his perfect love, and his perfect plan … for you?
Let’s define our terms: A thorn is anything, or perhaps more applicable, any one in your life, which or who is causing you frustration, irritation, even pain. You don’t want this thorn, you don’t like this thorn, and most pertinently, you cannot control it, and you cannot fix it.
We don’t like things we cannot control, and we certainly do not like things – and people – we cannot fix ourselves.
There are many types of thorns. Perhaps yours is a troublesome family member, or a wife or husband who just won’t … do right, or a person from your working world. Maybe a physical issue, a monetary issue, or a marriage issue. That about covers it, doesn’t it?
I find it interesting we are not told specifically what Paul’s thorn is. My guess is if we were told, then we would say, “Well, that is his, not mine. Mine is different. So Paul’s response doesn’t apply to me. Besides, mine is worse.”
Paul pleaded three times for God to take his thorn away. We have the advantage of seeing Paul’s perspective after he has processed through his thorn problem, and moved from whining and complaining and pleading to God, to the clarity of seeing it as a tool his loving Heavenly Father is using to strengthen him.
Paul brings us directly to his issue: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited ….”
Right now I’m guessing this conceit issue does not apply to you, so you can stop reading. But if conceit, or Self-reliance, or, “If I don’t, it won’t – If it’s to be it’s up to me,” can at times describe you, then read on.
Paul knew himself. He knew if God removed this thorn, he would tend to drift back towards Self-reliance, and away from total reliance on God. He also knew when he acted in his own power, relying on his Self, the results would be a C- at best. Perhaps more likely a D to an outright F.
So Paul states unequivocally, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Christ’s power, not mine. Christ’s power … resting … on me, not my power roiling around and over me.
Next week let’s look into God’s answer to Paul’s pleading three times, and how we can boast all the more gladly about our own weaknesses.
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